Paul Merson has given his verdict on the role Thomas Partey played for Arsenal against Nottingham Forest.
Arsenal got their Premier League season underway with a 2-1 win against Nottingham Forest at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
However, there were still plenty of talking points to emerge from the match, despite the Gunners securing a largely comfortable victory.
Several questions have been raised about the make up of Arsenal’s defence that took on Steve Cooper’s side. After 73 consecutive Premier League starts for the north London club, Mikel Arteta dropped centre-back Gabriel to the bench. On top of that, defensive midfielder Thomas Partey was handed the right-back berth.
Partey has played in this position before on a couple of occasions for Arsenal, but usually in the event of an injury crisis. The situation prior to kick-off on Saturday could not be described as such.
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Arteta seems to have shaken up his back four in an effort to make Arsenal’s approach play more unpredictable. The plan was clearly for Partey to roam from his position, and tuck into the midfield area, replicating the inverted full-back role commonly performed by Oleksandr Zinchenko on the left flank.
However, former Arsenal star and Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson wasn’t convinced that the experiment was a successful, or even necessary, one. He said, “I didn’t understand Thomas Partey playing at right-back instead of Takehiro Tomiyasu. Sometimes the manager complicates it and tries to be a little bit like Pep Guardiola.”
Pep Guardiola will undeniably have had an influence on Arteta’s management style. Arteta served as Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City for three years before being appointed as Arsenal manager. Guardiola himself has a reputation for tinkering with players’ positions and trying out new tactical set ups.
Whilst it can be risky, such innovation is necessary to achieve success at the top of the game. Deploying Partey at right-back against Forest was hardy an unqualified triumph, but it is vital that Arteta can test these tactical theories whilst his side are still able to pick up all three points.
Only a few of these tactical tweaks need to come off for them to have a revolutionary impact on Arsenal’s entire season.